Health Advisory: Fall Updates

November 02, 2020

Dear Fellow Members of the Columbia Community, 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a part of our daily lives for over seven months now, it is understandable to feel some fatigue -- but it remains ever important to remain vigilant. With new cases on the rise and vaccines still in development, continuing to take precautionary measures to help slow the spread of coronavirus is still essential. We all share in the responsibility to protect ourselves, our families and friends, and our community. 

Updated New York State Travel Guidance 

Columbia University continues to urge caution around traveling, and the CDC has helpful guidance on minimizing risks over the holidays. You may be aware that Governor Cuomo has eased the 14-day quarantine requirement for many travelers to New York, but it is important to note that the requirement is being replaced with a new mandatory testing policy. Effective November 4, 2020, the New York State Travel Advisory Executive Order 205.2 will be updated with changes to the quarantine requirements as follows: 

All affiliates arriving in New York from outside the United States are required to quarantine for a period of 14 days consistent with Department of Health regulations for quarantine as per New York State’s Executive Order 205.2. The alternate process below is not applicable to international travelers.

All affiliates arriving in New York from a non-contiguous state are required to quarantine for a period of 14 days consistent with Department of Health regulations for quarantine unless the following testing and quarantine guidance is met as per New York State’s Executive Order 205.2:

  • For travelers who travel outside of New York for less than 24 hours: 
    • The traveler need not test prior to departure from the state and does not need to quarantine upon arrival. 
    • Such travelers must continue to fill out the traveler form upon entry. 
    • The traveler must take a diagnostic test on the fourth day after arrival in New York. 
  • For travelers who have traveled outside of New York for more than 24 hours: 
    • The traveler must seek testing prior to departure from that state or country, within 72 hours of departure. 
    • The traveler must, upon arrival in New York, quarantine according to Department of Health guidelines for a minimum of three days, measured from time of arrival. 
    • On day 4, the traveler may seek a diagnostic test to exit quarantine. The traveler may exit quarantine upon receipt of the second negative test result.  

Affiliates who qualify for the New York State exemption for essential workers and are deemed as such by their department (including frontline healthcare workers, researchers, or some clinical students) may return to work with a negative test within 24 hours of their return but must adhere to all other appropriate precautions. 

Please note that if these requirements are not met, the 14-day quarantine still applies. 

COVID-19 and the Columbia Campus 

Our campus data regarding tests conducted, positive cases, and contact tracing, can be reviewed online.  

Please continue to follow guidelines set by government officials and public health experts and #KeeptheCompact when coming onto campus to help keep Columbia safe. As a reminder, the following actions can help prevent the spread of illness: 

  • Practice physical distancing: Maintain at least six feet from others, when possible. 
  • Use a face covering: Cover nose and mouth with a mask or face covering at all times, except when alone in a private office or in an enclosed room with the door closed. 
  • Continue good prevention hygiene: Even with measures like face coverings and physical distancing, continue to take basic preventative measures like frequent hand washing, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, coughing/sneezing into your elbow, and staying home if you’ve not feeling well. 

The University COVID-19 website is the hub for updated information to support your transition to living, studying, or working remotely. If you have questions about your COVID-19 symptoms or positive results, please call the Columbia COVID-19 hotline at 212-854-9355 (M-F), 9 AM – 5 PM Eastern. 

Take Care of You – Fight Flu 

Getting a flu vaccine during the 2020-21 flu season is more important than ever, not only to reduce your risk from the flu, but also to help conserve potentially scarce healthcare resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, over 14,000 community members have received their flu shots through Columbia. 

The flu vaccine is mandatory for students coming on to campus this academic year. To ensure vaccine compliance, the deadline has been extended to November 9, 2020 for students on the Morningside campus and remains at November 9, 2020 for students on the CUIMC campus. The flu vaccine is strongly recommended for all other members of the Columbia community. 

Morningside Faculty, Staff, and Students 

  • Columbia Health is providing flu vaccines to students, faculty, and staff on the Morningside Campus this Fall, free of charge. Appointments via the online patient portal are required to ensure physical distancing. Appointments are being added regularly so place check back if your first choice of date and time is not available. If you are vaccinated off-campus, please upload proof of your vaccine to the patient portal. Use this link for instructions.  
  • More details are available on the Columbia Health website

CUIMC Faculty, Staff, and Students 

  • CUIMC Student Health is providing flu vaccines free of charge to CUIMC students by appointment only through its Flu Vaccine Clinic. You may schedule your appointment via the SHS Web Portal. If you are vaccinated off-campus, please upload proof of your vaccine to the patient portal:
  • Workforce Health & Safety (WH&S) is providing flu vaccine free of charge to all CUIMC faculty and staff through Nov. 9, 2020. You must present a CUID and UNI to receive the vaccine. Designed vaccination locations are open from 7:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. (excluding University holidays): 
    • Mondays and Wednesdays: Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Building, Amphitheater 1 (first floor) 
    • Tuesdays and Fridays: Hammer Health Sciences Center, Lower Level 2, Room LL205  
  • Outside documentation of flu vaccines for CUIMC faculty and staff should be sent to [email protected]. Please remember to use a secure internet connection such as VPN when sending medical information. 

Your Mental Health Matters 

As the pandemic continues to reshape our lives, we encourage you to prioritize taking care of your mental health in these times of heightened stress and unknowns.  

For students on the Morningside Campus, Columbia Health is here to support you, wherever you may find yourself living and studying this fall term. Visit the Coping Tools webpage for resources for coping with stress, anxiety and other concerns due to COVID-19. In addition to individual virtual counseling sessions, Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) is offering over 30 virtual support groups open to any student, anywhere. 

For students at CUIMC, Student Health is available to support you, virtually and in-person, and continues to offer an array of accessible and convenient appointments and services. Visit the Coping with the Stress of a Pandemic webpage for guidance on how to develop wellness plans to support feelings of stability during uncertain times. For additional information on in-person and virtual appointments, visit the Student Health website

For Faculty and Staff, the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a free, confidential resource available 24/7 that gives you the opportunity to speak with a licensed mental health professional, who can direct you to additional resources as needed.   

The CDC also has resources for taking care of your mental health during the pandemic. 

We recognize the extraordinary pressures we are all under given the uncertainties of today and we will continue to navigate this time together.  

With care for our community, 

Melanie Bernitz, MD, MPH 

Associate Vice President and Medical Director, Columbia Health and Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine (in the Center for Family and Community Medicine)